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Education of an Artist

Story Time:

When I was in high school, I had the mistaken idea that once I was done with college, I wouldn’t have to go to worry about getting an education anymore.  I even questioned the value of college because I wanted to be an artist.  Oh, what I didn’t know.  Forty years later, I’m still working on my education.  Happily.

Self Taught Artist:

My friend Sandra Neary recently published a blog post about being a self taught artist.  My circumstances are similar to hers.  I like to say my art education is “self guided”;  I am responsible for my own art education.  I select what I will learn, how I will learn it, and when I will have a learning experience.  I use books, classes and work to guide my learning.

I would suggest that being a self taught artist has its challenges.  How do you know what classes you need?  What do you need to learn how to do?

Personal Insight:

I’d like to share what I have learned.

  • Focus on learning the basics or fundamentals first.  They are the building blocks upon which everything else is learned.  How do you know what the fundamentals are?  Look at experienced artist in the medium of your choosing.  What do they do every time they work?
  • Learn your materials.  For example, a watercolor artist needs to know the strengths, limitations and uses of the different kinds of paints, papers and brushes.
  • Use a combination of workshops, classes, books and time spent with brush in hand to educate yourself.
  • Allow yourself room to explore, fail, and learn some more.  Eventually, you’ll be more targeted or directed in what you want to learn.  You will know what you want to work on.

The funny thing I’ve learned is that I’m still a “student” along side being an experienced artist.  Education is a lifelong process.  The more I learn, the more I see I want to learn.

About the Painting:

The painting posted is one of my new acrylic still life paintings.  I’ve been studying how to draw and paint using the classic, academic approach.  The instructor is artist Sarah Burns.  It is a different way of working when compared with my stylized approach.  What I like is that I’m learning things about drawing and seeing that I didn’t know before.  The painting is done practicing the lessons I’ve learned from Sarah.

Summary:

To summarize, the best part about being self taught artist is that I’m responsible for my own art education.  And, the learning is an on-going process.

Post Script:

I almost didn’t publish this blog post.  For some reason, I’ve been hesitant in writing and posting blog articles.  I have seven draft blog articles.  Finally, one has to say publish and move on!  Doubt can paralyze.   I do recommend reading Sandra’s blog post.  Maybe you’ll have a thought or two about your own education!

Acrylic over Watercolor 9x7 2015 d'Arches 300lb CP Watercolor Paper

Acrylic over Watercolor
9×7
2015
d’Arches 300lb CP Watercolor Paper

 

 

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The post Education of an Artist appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Studio Snapshot – Start Of A Newly Commissioned Vessel

I just received a commission for a new type of vessel. Up until now I’ve been making Earth Spirit Vessels. Now a friend wants me to make a vessel to celebrate the marriage of a couple of her friends. I love the idea, but what should I call this new type of vessel?

Combining the colors blue, teal and silver for paste papers for a newly commissioned vessel.

Combining the colors blue, teal and silver for paste papers for a newly commissioned vessel.

Is it a Matrimonial Spirit Vessel or a Commitment Spirit Vessel or is there a better name for this new type of vessel? The colors chosen are blue, teal and silver. The next decision is what color or colors to combine with the paste paper. I’m thinking of a white or off white.

This is what I've been working on this past week, making, cutting & folding paste paper for a new vessel.

This is what I’ve been working on this past week, making, cutting & folding paste paper for a new vessel.

So, I’m looking for a name for this type of Spirit Vessel. It will still have calligraphy quotes and words inside some of the folded pieces. I will be receiving them tomorrow. Please weigh in on whether you think it should be called a Matrimonial Spirit Vessel or a Commitment Spirit Vessel or some other name.

Many thanks, Candy

Capturing Light in your Paintings

Sunset at Panther Meadows, Mt. Shasta

The smoke from the fires in Northern California is extreme. At times you can see only a mile ahead and it has made it difficult to feel inspired to paint outdoors. The dense smoke and ash falling from the sky constantly reminds me the losses others are suffering during this summer of great drought and fires.

During the last few nights, the smoke lifted allowing me to steal away with my new Strada Pochade box to paint on the slopes of Mt Shasta. The smoke in the atmosphere blends with the light of the setting sun creating a beautiful “alpine glow” lighting effect on Mt Shasta, making the light seem even more spectacular than usual. The smoke adds a subtle color to the atmosphere and it is this pollution that we see in the paintings of Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church. Not only did these early artists live in a time of great wildfires on the plains, they also had the resulting pollution generated from occasional volcanic eruptions.

It has been my experience that the best time to paint is in the morning and evening. The angle of the sun at these times of day creates the best shadows and interesting light patterns. Painting in the evening is my favorite time to paint on location. The light travels slower and the colors are more vivid than any other time of day. I have extra time to think of a concept, set the stage with a sketch, and mix colors before I begin painting the subject. This first 10 minutes of preparation before painting is critical and mandatory. I encourage students in my plein air workshops to take even more time before sketching their composition. Light, as I explain in my You Tube videos and at my Plein Air Workshops, is essential when creating a stunning painting. In fact, a painting without the effect of light will be a painting of things – a rock, a tree, a mountain, etc. Great artists don’t paint things, they paint the effects of the light and how it illuminates things to make a stunning, eye-catching painting.

I had the good fortune of witnessing the sun setting from my studio window at The Grand View Ranch and saw an awesome lighting effect generated by the light filtering through the smoke from the fires in Northern California. I knew that if the smoke cleared, the colors of the sky the following evening would be amazing. I am always looking for stunning locations with good lighting to share with students when they attend my painting workshops in Mt. Shasta. One location that I have been looking forward to exploring for years is called Panther Meadows. This place is considered sacred by many people around the world, and I am amazed by the number of people who travel here to see Mt. Shasta and to learn the secrets of painting on location.

These are a few pointers that we talk about during the workshop:
Begin by painting footnotes where the light and dark patterns are.
Squint! Squinting softens your focus to see value and not color.
Paint the shadows patterns first because they will change rapidly outdoors. Link the shadows together to simplify the pattern.
Establish the main color of the light source.
Establish the main color of the shadow of the distant value.
Look for the lightest light and the darkest dark and see if you can increase the contrast to create strong contrast and excitement in your painting.
Determine the central focal point and limit your central focal point to one strong idea somewhere in the middle of the painting.
Make sure your first color note is accurate and compare every additional color note to that.

Tragically this summer wildfires have burned many locations in the west; however there is a silver lining for the artist. The effects generated by the smoke-filtered light can produce stunning effects in your paintings. So, go out and paint. And if you need some additional motivation, attend my workshop in October in Mount Shasta. The information is located under Workshops on my website at www.StefanBaumann.com.

(Note: The Strada outdoor pochade box is fantastic! It is sturdy and strong with very little shaking and rattling like my Open Box M. It is easy to set up and to clean. Strada has made a modern quality box that fixes issues that I have had with Plein Air Boxes made with wood, springs and screws.)

                                                         _______________________________________________________

Plein air and alla prima artist Stefan Baumann, host of the PBS painting series “The Grand View, America’s National Park through the eyes of an artist” and author of “Observations Of Art and Nature,” travels in his vintage travel trailer painting America’s western landscape. Baumann paints outdoors with oils and canvas capturing stunning vistas, wildlife, western landscapes, National Parks and still life, thrilling art collectors throughout the world. He has many international collectors acquiring his paintings as investments. His painting style is called Romantic Realism with Luminism, and the extraordinary way he captures the effect of light is a truly American style used to paint the Western landscape. He can be seen plein air painting in Yellowstone, Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon. Baumann’s “how to paint” DVDs filmed on location in the National Parks are the very best on the market.

The post Capturing Light in your Paintings appeared first on Stefan Baumann – The Grand View: Paintings by Stefan Baumann.

Paper Calligraphy Bead Necklace

This paper bead necklace has taken me over 3 weeks to complete, rather than just the couple of days I expected. I had more problems with it than I ever expected. The good news is that I persevered and will let you know exactly what didn’t work and what did.

I just love my finished necklace. I have a small neck, so I was able to make it just the right size for my neck.

I just love my finished necklace! I have a small neck, so I was able to make it just the right size for my neck.

I started by making beads from my old calligraphy practice paper. I have just started learning copperplate, and had used some Strathmore Aquarius watercolor paper for practicing. I thought it would make great beads. You can read my blog post: Paper Beads From Calligraphy Practice Papers.

Paper beads made from strips of my calligraphy practice paper.

These were my original paper beads made from strips of my calligraphy practice paper.

My first problem came when I tried to seal the beads with acrylic matte medium. The ink bled. Then I tried sealing with a number of other finishes, all bled. I tried spraying the paper with a spray fixative before rolling the beads, but they still bled. I tried multiple coats, still bled. I tried different inks, with various unsatisfactory results.

I think part of my problem was that I was using 80# watercolor paper. But I wanted the heft of that paper when making my beads, so I didn’t change the paper I was using. Higgins Eternal, Sumi, Pen and Ink India Black and Font India all bled when I tried to seal them with acrylic matte medium or a glazing medium. I finally found that a super heavy coat of Renaissance Wax on Pen and Ink India Black didn’t bleed! Great, but it took a lot of Renaissance Wax (not cheap) and a lot of time. I could make my necklace, but it wasn’t the final solution.

My finished necklace combines paper and regular beads on stretch cord.

My finished necklace combines paper and regular beads on stretch cord.

I then bought 2 waterproof black inks, Higgins India Drawing Ink and Bombay India Ink. The Higgins India bled on the three different papers I tried writing on. It went on fine, but within a few seconds, the ink started bleeding into the paper. The Bombay India worked like a charm. The calligraphy was crisp. My thins were wonderfully thin. It was a delight to use. I try not to use waterproof ink in my pens as the nibs don’t last as long, but I did love this combination pen nib, ink and paper. FYI, throughout this project I have used a Brause EF pointed nib.

With my ink finally figured out, it was time to make new beads and make my necklace. When making my paper beads, I wrap them around a toothpick. When sealing my beads with acrylic matte medium, I use a bamboo skewer and paint 6 at a time. I usually coat the beads twice. This makes them water resistant, but not waterproof.

This is the stretch cord I used to make my necklace. It has instructions on the back for how to tie and glue (optional) to finish it.

This is the stretch cord I used to make my necklace. It has instructions on the back for how to tie and glue (optional) to finish it.

Once the beads were sealed, I strung them on .7 mm stretch magic cord. Once tied (and glued), the cord stretches in order to get the necklace on and off. No clasps required! I got this idea from my friend, Michelle. I will report later how the cord holds up over time. Meanwhile, I love my new necklace!

Enjoy, Candy

Studio Snapshot – Paste Paper Boxes

My neighborhood is sponsoring a Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The profits from this sale will be donated to our Community Art Fund for art for our community.

Three of the boxes I'm donating to our Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale.

Three of the boxes I’m donating to our Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale.

One of my contributions to this sale are these boxes that I have been making this past week. These were originally flat white boxes that were leftovers and donated by two different people. I took the flat white boxes and applied colored paste that I use to make my paste papers. You can see the wonderful results once they are folded into boxes.

Three more of the boxes I'm donating to our Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale.

Three more of the boxes I’m donating to our Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale.

You cannot purchase these boxes. You will only be able to get them if you spend a certain amount of money at our Holiday Sale.

This is how the boxes started out, flat. You can see the four colors of paste I'm using for this box.

This is how the boxes started out, flat. You can see the four colors of paste I’m using for this box.

I love being able to use boxes that were destined to be put in the recycle bin and make them into something to be treasured. Hopefully they will be used many times to exchange gifts.

The box on the lower left was the box from the photo above this one.

The box on the lower left is the same box from the photo above this one. It’s so much better looking once it’s colored.

I made a lot of these paste paper boxes this past week in my studio. Actually, for this month, my studio is my garage. I do tend get messy throwing colored paint around, so my garage is the perfect space for making paste papers.

I have added gold pigment to most of my paste paper boxes. I love how it jumps out on these purple boxes.

I have added gold pigment to most of my paste paper boxes. I love how it jumps out on these purple boxes

I will be sharing other items I’m making for the Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale in future blog posts.

Three more of the boxes I'm donating to our Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale.

Three more of the boxes I’m donating to our Holiday Arts, Crafts & Collectibles Sale.

Enjoy, Candy

 

Sketching in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Sketch from "Hike & Learn" Field Sketching Class

Graphite on drawing paper
5×7
Study
Done in Sarah F. Burns “Hike & Learn” class with the Friends of Cascade/Siskiyou National Monument
Just off the Pacific Crest Trail, south of Hobart Bluff Trail Head, in the Soda Mountain Wilderness
2015

Greetings!  Yesterday I took part in a fun sketching class.  Sponsored by the “Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument”, the class was part of their “Hike and Learn” program.  The instructor was artist Sarah F. Burns.  You may have noted from previous posts, I’m taking classical drawing from Sarah.

I find landscape drawing challenging.  Sarah gave a demonstration on how to create a drawing, focusing on lights, darks and shapes.  She talked about how one organizes based on big shapes and aerial perspective.  She makes it look easy.

When faced with my own blank paper, I set about the business of sketching in the manner Sarah presented.  At the end of the session, we discussed my efforts.  I learned about drawing what I see and how it might differ from drawing symbols of what I see.  I had not noticed this tendency of mine.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is not far from the Rogue Valley where I live.  It was a good experience.  I’m excited to go out again.

PS.  The “Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument” have other Hike & Learn sessions.  I think they are a wonderful way to get to know this special place in southwest Oregon.

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Results Of Black Paper Fade Test

About 2 years ago I decided to do a fade test of some black papers I had. I cut strips of 6 black papers I had, taped them on a white paper, labeled the papers, then cut the page in half. I put one sheet in a south facing window and the other in an envelope in closed drawer.

The papers on the left were left in the sun. They were originally all the color on their right.

The papers on the left were left in the sun. The papers on both the left and right were originally one paper that I cut in half.

There is quite a difference in some of the colors. There were a couple of surprises. I hadn’t expected the mulberry black to fade, and it really did. I was pretty sure the  Arches black wouldn’t fade and I was right. I had been told that Canson black faded, but it sure doesn’t look to me like it did. This is great news! I have lots of my “unknown” paper and now I know it doesn’t fade. I was pretty sure the Wausau and Astrobright papers would fade, but was amazed at how much they did fade. Also, notice that the white paper yellowed a bit from being in the sun.

I cut 6 different black strips of paper (1" x 6") and taped them to a piece of paper. I cut the paper in half. The left half will sit in a south window while the right half will be put in an envelope in a dark drawer.

This is how both papers looked 2 years ago.

Now it’s time to do another couple of tests. I want to do a test of some colored papers. And I think a test of some inks would be a good idea. I have done tests of inks in the past, but many of my favorite ones are no longer made.

I welcome input from those who have done their own fade tests.

Happy creating, Candy

Studio Snapshot – Back Making More Paste Papers

My burn is healing and I’m back making my paste papers. It looks as though I’ll be making my paste papers well into September.  I want to have enough paste papers to last me until next summer.

I have cut purple paste papers into 2" by 4" rectangles and am folding them into units that will eventually become one of my Earth Spirit Vessels.

I have cut purple paste papers into 2″ by 4″ rectangles and am folding them into units that will eventually become one of my Earth Spirit Vessels.

What’s new this year is that I need to make a lot more paste papers to incorporate into my Earth Spirit Vessels. The vessels I made last year were quite popular, so I will be making more this year.

I love the various colors of purple and gold that will eventually find their way into an Earth Spirit Vessel.

I love the various colors of purple and gold that will eventually find their way into an Earth Spirit Vessel.

This is what has been happening in my studio this past week. With my burn, I’ve been cutting and folding more than making paste papers. But, I’ve now healed enough to start making more paste papers again.

Enjoy, Candy

Embracing Gray

I’m evolving.  I’m embracing gray.

Once Upon A Time…

About 12 years ago I was called a “colorist”; I took it as a compliment.  I still do.

I had several paintings hanging in a gallery and it was Art Walk night.  A gentleman came by and we were chatting.  He observed that I was a “colorist”.  And, indeed, my paintings were colorful.

A Little Art History

To explain, a “colorist” is an artist whose focus is color instead of something else like gray tone.  Painters like Matisse and Bonnard created colorist works.

A “tonalist”, on the other hand, is an artist whose focus is on the tones: lights, darks and various shades of gray.  Whistler is an example of a tonalist painter.

Colorful Beginnings

I have been studying color as long as I can remember.  I bet you have too.  Remember crayons?  Did you ever layer reds and greens to make black?  Or, consider color choices when getting dressed in the morning?  Or, decorating?

My father taught my siblings and I the primary, secondary and tertiary colors.  He told us about opposite colors and how to mix them to make grays and browns.  Still, it was colors like red, blue, yellow, pink, rather than gray that caught my attention.

Red Hen And Eggs, color as symbol ©M Stermer-Cox

When I started my development as a painter, my approach was as a colorist.  In a colorist manner, I tended to use color opposites next to each other to achieve color harmony.  This works as long as both colors are used at the same strength.

My watercolor painting “Red Hen and Eggs” is an example of a colorist approach.  I used green and red as my color scheme.

Over time, I have accumulated more knowledge about the properties of color.  Slowly, I’ve added mixed dark colors to my paintings.  Still, I would characterize my approach as a colorist; colors are the focus.

Gray Evolution

As I said, I’m evolving.  I’ve been studying the classical academic approach to drawing and painting under the instruction of artist Sarah Burns.  The process is drawing, gray scale painting, then color.

Naturally, when I come home from class, I have to practice and experiment!

Embracing Gray:  Coffee Cup w/ Swedish Candle

Acrylic over Watercolor
9×7
2015
d’Arches 300lb RP Watercolor Paper

I’ve been working on this small acrylic still life painting.    I decided to try to incorporate lessons I’ve learned from Sarah’s class.  I purposely used grays in my set up and my painting.  I liked the way the gray helps the red in the candlestick glow.

Bottomline.  I’m happy I’m embracing the gray side.  Its like having more tools in the tool box!

 

 

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The Best Laid Plans Sometimes Run Amuck

Not everything goes as planned. Ditto on today’s blog post. I’ve received many compliments on my blog. Now it’s time to let my admirers in on a secret; I’m only human. Sometimes things don’t work out.

Paper beads made from strips of my calligraphy practice paper.

Paper beads made from strips of my calligraphy practice paper.

I had a wonderful idea of making a necklace out of  paper beads made from my calligraphy practice. I wrote about this in last week’s blog post (as in photo above). When I went to coat the them with acrylic matte medium, the ink bled. Yuck! No photo because they look too awful.

Then I tried another ink. Worse result. Finally I think I may have found a waterproof ink that may work. Unfortunately before I could practice with that ink, I poured boiling water over my left wrist (I’m left handed).

My wrist is healing well, but it still hurts and I’m giving it a lot of TLC and not doing any calligraphy for a bit. Cold compresses and aloe vera have worked wonders and I may manage to escape with only a few days of intense pain.

Moral of the story: life happens. And maybe I should work on getting my blog posts done ahead of time, which I have thought about, but haven’t really managed to accomplish yet.

I have not been able to make paste papers for a few days either. My response for that is that I will likely have to make paste papers into September rather than just for the month of August. That is no problem for me, but it does mean that paste papers will be consuming my life for a little longer than usual this year.

I just thought you should know that I’m human, too. Not everything works out. And that’s just life.

Happy Creating, Candy